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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Dark Side of the Lighter Side

It's raining outside. I like a day like this once in awhile. Rainy days give me the excuse I need to hunker indoors and get indoor things done. I'm probably one of the few people who looks outside in the morning, and upon seeing rain says "Oh cool!" Rain means a lazy day for me. I realize that whether or not I have a lazy day is entirely up to me, so perhaps I should be more clear: rain means a justified lazy day.

If it's nice and sunny outdoors, I feel compelled to be out in it. I was raised to be an "outdoor kitty", to spend as much time as possible taking full advantage of every bit of sun. We would swim, ride our horses, work in the garden, dig for worms, read in the grass or just sun ourselves until the sun started to go down. Almost every summertime memory that I have is of being outdoors. To this day, I have a really difficult time relaxing indoors when it's sunny. I don't have many of my former outdoor activities to keep me busy any more, but I spend time with my dog and walk until my feet are killing me (plantar fasciitis sucks). To stay indoors comfortably, I need an excuse. Rain is that excuse. It's raining outside.

I have been listening to the rain, enjoying a cup of coffee and perusing other blogs. I love to read blogs. I love to read the thoughts of other people, to understand different perspectives and to learn something new. Reading a blog is almost like reading someone's personal journal sometimes. Unlike an article written in journalist fashion, blogs tend to have a much more 'human' feel that I appreciate. It's like someone is taking the time to share a piece of themselves.

People set their blogs up to reflect what they are about, and each blog has it's own unique 'feel'; from a reader's perspective its the online version of visiting peoples' homes. I totally dig the individuality, the colors, the images and the graphics that people choose to represent them. More insight into that person's uniqueness.

I have noticed, in spite of its title, that my blog is perhaps one of the darkest blogs out there. Maybe the darkness on my blog is the lighter side of me, hehe. Or maybe I like to occasionally provide light via the content. Occasionally. Maybe those brief snippets are the exception that proves the rule; the things that keep us hanging on just a little longer, just in case...

I don't think I intended to make it dark. It was a subconscious thing. When I chose my background, I thought "yes, here's a haunted room...this is what I know..." It made me feel simultaneously comforted and just a little edgy; therefore normal. Maybe I thought you might feel and appreciate it too, that it would invite you to come in, to sit down and stay awhile. My font is a little crazy. Self explanatory.  But it makes me think: should I brighten things up, and make my blog a lighter, Lighter Side of Darkness? Or do I keep it as is, letting the light, when it occurs, be that much brighter for the contrast? Hmmm.....Things to think about on a rainy day...

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The meaning of life...sort of

I don't react well to bad news. Okay, that's an understatement. I am the Queen of Totally Freaking Out. It should be bestowed upon me as an official tile. Yes, I really am that good. It sucks, to be honest. The ease with which I panic makes me want to panic. And it really is as dysfunctional as it sounds. Okay, so then what happens? Well, after going completely around the bend, I get logical. That's the part I like.

I got notice today that my rent is going up. I kind of expected that it would, and was already anticipating having to pull another 50 bucks or so out of thin air. I've had numerous and seemingly arbitrary expense hikes over the years; some of them have been life altering, but mostly they just serve to keep the ground ever shifting beneath my feet. Wouldn't want to feel too safe and secure now, would we? Well, maybe not, but I'll come back to that. I think having people shooting each other in my parking lot (one resulting in murder) is enough to tweak anybody's equilibrium all by itself, but it wouldn't be full-on freak-worthy without a rent hike. And this year's rent hike is of the life-altering variety: a whopping $140/month increase (which completely fails to be offset by my $25/month raise). Yes, I know. I'm getting totally hosed. I assure you, I freaked out fully and completely in a manner that would make any bat-sh** crazy, straight-jacketed nut-job (and it's perfectly okay to say that if I am one) person proud. I gave Crazy-town a thorough visit, saw all the sights and the museum, and I even had some coffee at the Crazy-town Cafe. So now what? As tempting as it is to settle in at Crazy town, it totally falls into the "great place to visit but I wouldn't want to live there" category.

Okay, logic time. Cool, Aquarian logic. It's time to go back to survival mode...I've done it before. I don't want to do it again, but as I think I may have mentioned a time or two, my life in it's current incarnation has very little to do with what I want. So why not take it to the extreme? I guess I'm railing against the idea a bit because I thought (okay hoped, but close enough) that by now, I would be in a place where things were getting better, but instead I'm having to let even more go. The stressful part is that there really isn't much left. I thought about giving up food, but apparently that's contraindicated for anyone who wishes to remain alive, and I definitely do. I can't give up the internet because I need it. I can't help but believe that the only way out of this situation is to keep my nose to the grindstone with my writing, and to be persistent. I don't know why I believe that, but it's something that lives on a gut level so I'm going with it. It's the only certainty I have. I also need to learn how to not let the second book become a distraction from finishing up the work on the first. And if that's not bad enough, the ideas for number 3 are already starting to float around like dark little shadows in shallow water; not distinct in shape but definitely present.  Maybe I can escape into my own stories once the stories aren't about me. At least that seems appealing. The first book is my story, I escaped the house in real life so there's no desire to escape into it in fantasy. The second book is purely fiction. The second is whatever I want it to be, and I can't begin to tell you how much that notion appeals to me.

 In the world of my stories, it's all about what I want, unlike my life right now. In the world of my stories, I really have a say, I control what happens. And it's AWESOME. I don't think that's a horrid place to be, and it's one of those things that can't be taken away randomly for some arbitrary reason. It's mine, free and clear. And it will assist me in making my real life mine too, I have no doubt. I can take heart in knowing that no matter what happens, "someday" gets a little closer with every passing moment.

Maybe that's not terribly logical, but this is: I have a roof, I have a bed. I have enough to survive. And yes, Mom, I can move my arms and legs. I have hope, and I have dreams too, and I'm lucky enough to posses tools that just may bring those dreams to fruition. Hey, it's much better odds than playing the lottery;-)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


It's been an odd day. I was up very early this morning after a not-so-great night of sleep, and kind of at the last minute decided to take the day off. It was a good decision. When I'm this tired, I feel especially vulnerable. I've been tired lately, but especially this morning after my lame night of sleep. Sometimes it's best to be avoidy and hole up a bit in the interest of preserving my own sanity. The unfortunate trade off is that I'm more likely to spend time on social media when I have the time. Facebook is an ugly place to be these days and I let it hook me. If I had had my wits about me, I would just rise above. I would think deep, meaningful thoughts like "don't be drawn in by the propaganda juggernaut; instead be the change you want to see". I would read offensive material, pause briefly, and then hit "delete" and move on. Today it got to me again. I need to get better at this.

I'm still tired but I already feel myself floating beyond the petty little FB junk-comments. I see the big picture, not just the symptoms or the end results, and it's not always an easy place to be. I wish I could just nit pick the readily apparent (and largely irrelevant) details, but the big picture is more obvious and pressing. Am I alone here? I suppose it doesn't matter. I don't control the big picture. I can't change peoples' minds or make people know what I know or see what I see. People do what they want, and it's just as well. We all have that right, as it should be. And that doesn't matter either. So what can I do?

I can focus on my corner. I alone decide whether or not I get hooked. I can take action in my corner, the kind of action that is informed by my own wisdom and initiated by my own heart. I can keep it real and have faith in myself. That wasn't always easy, but it is now. My experiences haven't made me less, but more. My perspective is deep and wide. I am an intelligent and curious person who loves books, has high-speed internet and a desire to see the word from all angles. And I'm tenacious and voracious. I long ago gave up the insistence on a singular, narrow viewpoint. Intellectual and psychological evolution are equally important. I revel in forming my opinions, and changing them as new information comes to light. I love the exploration of new points of view; to try them on, to adopt them as my own. Or not. But I can't make decisions based on uninformed, peripheral logic; on nothing more than rumor or speculation. I never could. But it's the easy thing to do, isn't it? It's easy to believe something because you want to believe it, and because it makes you feel good somehow to do so. Even easier when it allows you to swim with the current (and the current ideology). It's much more difficult to choose an original path. Maybe that's why so few do it.

I think too much. Maybe that's part of the problem. I'm always trying to make sense of what I see and hear, to make it relateable somehow.  Sometimes there is no sense to be made. Sometimes, circumstances defy my need to create some type of order out of their chaotic or uninspired principles. I need to live with that. I need to live with knowing that things don't always make sense. Especially now, when I'm so tired and I've had so little sleep...

Friday, June 8, 2012

National Helmet Day

A nice GPA riding helmet
 Hey! It's national helmet day! Even though I am in between horses at the moment, I can still be on board with riding with a helmet. Wearing a helmet is such an easy thing to do and makes such a big difference in terms of safety, I can't imagine why anybody wouldn't. It wasn't always that way.

When I was a kid, it was the norm to ride bareback. Jeans, sneakers and t-shirts were the 'correct' attire (unless it was hot, and then bare feet and shorts were the order of the day), and nobody wore helmets. Yes, we were injured a lot, but fortunately we managed to avoid serious injury. We were lucky. My sister and I owned a helmet (one between the two of us, if that's any indication of relevance) but it was strictly for looks. It was pretty and velvet, but offered no real protection in the event of a fall. When we competed, we were in soft derby hats, had flat, cutback saddles and solid fillis stirrups. My how things have changed! Fortunately, people know better now.

Now, it is a requirement that all riders under the age of 18 wear ASTM approved/SEI certified helmets when competing in all disciplines. The United States Pony Club takes it even further; they recommend safety stirrups as well. As a parent, I can't tell you what a relief it was to know that those rules and guidelines were in place when my daughter was involved. To send her out on a horse with a bare head would terrify me, as would the thought of her hanging up on a stirrup. Equestrian sports are dangerous enough, it helps SO MUCH to stack the survival odds in your favor by using the correct safety equipment.

There are some folks that still can't be bothered though, and IMHO they set a bad example while risking their own well being. There are some breed shows that are more concerned with a 'low profile' appearance than safety. Many folks in the dressage world are "too cool" to school in a helmet. I have seen more than a few natural horsemanship enthusiasts riding helmetless as well, though I think many of them fall into the 'western' camp. I have rarely seen a western rider wearing a helmet, though I'm not really sure why? Perhaps it's the preference for cowboy hats? The western folks that I asked seemed to feel that helmets were more of an English riding accessory, and that English riding was more inherently dangerous, anyway. Maybe that's true, but there are lots of great helmets on the market in many styles including those with a very western appearance.

There are so many helmets on the market today, that there is something for everyone. There are lightweight, ventilated helmets for endurance and trail, cute colorful helmets for children, very traditional helmets for a conservative and traditional hunter look, and really cool, sporty ones for the eventers and show jumpers (like the neat GPA pictured above). It can be hard to choose just one (I think between my daughter and I we have 5?). They range in price from about $30, all the way up to $500 or more. The only thing they have in common is that they are all designed specifically for equestrian use. And THAT is important. I have seen people put bicycle helmets on their children for horseback riding, and that's a very dangerous thing to do. Bicycle helmets protect different areas of the head, and are not at all suited to equestrian use.

Technically, as an old lady and fairly experienced (though rusty at this point) rider, I am not required to wear a helmet. But I do. Every time, every ride, even on an elderly Percheron.  I am very aware of the risks involved with riding an unpredictable, 1000 pound prey animal. I know how quickly things can go bad and how bad they can go. It's so easy to get hurt, and with the advent of good safety helmets, the head injuries of my day can be just a thing of the past. I think I'm much 'cooler' with my brains intact, even if it means sporting a helmet that doesn't necessarily highlight my features. I'm very pleased with how normal it has become to ride with a helmet, and very pleased that kids growing up these days are in the habit of it. Even though I grew up without them, as an adult I will always ride with a helmet.